ART AND CULTURE OF BERMUDA

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Gombey dancers in Bermuda

Culture of Bermuda
Bermuda's culture is a mixture of the various sources of its population, though little trace remains of the various African slaves, Spanish-Caribbean, Irish, or Scots cultures evident in the 17th century, with Anglo-Saxon culture becoming dominant. Today, the only language other than English that is spoken by any substantial part of the population is Portuguese, following one hundred and sixty years of immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands (primarily the Azores, though also from Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands). There are strong British influences, together with Afro-Caribbean. A second wave of immigration from the West Indies has been sustained throughout the 20th century, although, unlike the Africans who immigrated to that area as indentured servants (or who were imported as slaves) in the 17th century, the more recent arrivals have mostly come from English speaking countries (albeit, most of the West Indian islands whose populations now speak English were then part of the Spanish Empire). This new infusion of West Indians has both accelerated social and political change, and diversified Bermuda's culture. West Indian musicians introduced Calypso music when Bermuda's tourist industry was expanded with the increase of visitors brought by post Second World War aviation. While Calypso music appealed more to the visitors than to the locals, Reggae has been embraced since the 1970s with the influx of Jamaican immigration.

Bermuda's early literary history was largely limited to non-Bermudian writers commenting on the island. These included John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), and Edmund Waller's poem, Battle of the Summer Islands (1645).

In the 20th century, a large number of books were written and published locally, though few were aimed at a wider market than Bermuda (most of these being scholarly reference books, rather than creative writing). One Bermudian novelist, Brian Burland, has achieved a degree of success and acclaim internationally, although the first (and undoubtedly the most important, historically) notable book credited to a Bermudian was the History of Mary Prince, a slave narrative by a Bermudian woman, Mary Prince, which helped to end slavery in the British Empire. Bermuda's proximity to the United States means that many aspects of US culture are reflected or incorporated into Bermudian culture. Many non-Bermudian writers have also made Bermuda their home, or have had homes here, including A.J. Cronin and F. Van Wyck Mason, who wrote on Bermudian subjects.

Dance and music are important in Bermuda. The dances of the colourful Gombey Dancers, seen at many events, are heavily influenced by African cultural traditions.

Bermuda has produced, or been home, to actors (such as Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, Lena Headey, Will Kempe, and most famously, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Noted musicians have included local icons The Talbot Brothers, who performed for many decades in both Bermuda and The United States (and appearing on Ed Sullivan's televised variety show), jazz pianist Lance Hayward, pop singer Heather Nova and more recently dancehall artist Collie Buddz. In 1979, Gina Swainson was crowned "Miss World".

Every year Bermuda hosts an international film festival, which shows many independent films. One of the festival's founders is film producer and director Arthur Rankin, Jr., co-founder of the Rankin/Bass production company.

Bermuda water colours painted by local artists are sold at various galleries and elaborately hand-carved cedar sculptures are another speciality. One such 7 ft (2.1 m) sculpture created by Bermudian artisan Chesley Trott is on display at the airport's baggage claim area. Local artwork may also be viewed at several galleries around the island. Alfred Birdsey was one of the more famous and talented water colourists, his impressionistic landscapes of Hamilton, St George's and the surrounding sailboats, homes, and bays of Bermuda are world-renowned.

Every Good Friday, Bermudians of all ages build kites, usually of a traditional Bermudian type, which are flown to symbolise Christ's ascent. A Bermudian kite is made to geometric designs, quite colourful, and is an art form as much as a recreational tool. Despite this, Bermudian kites are very airworthy, holding world records for altitude and duration of flight.